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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Crime Doesn't Pay

Ok, so I am almost done with the conclusion of the book, so here's something completely irrelevant (to that).

The fictional motorcycle gang depicted on "Son of Anarchy" are gun-runners. They have a highly lucrative business distributing guns from the IRA to other criminal organizations.

Yet they drink Miller Lite, not single-malt scotch. They live in ordinary-looking California ranch houses. They don't take European vacations or drive elegant cars. They don't have nice clothes, wearing instead their leather and denim motorcycle gear. Most of the time, they just ride around on Harleys in order to intimidate or kill people from other gangs. They have power and money, but these are only relevant in relation to their criminality. For example, their power is relative power, in relation to that of the black gang, the Mexican gang, other white gangs (neo-nazis, etc...), and the IRA itself. If they were to stop being criminals, they would not need this power. They have power by bribing local law enforcement, but they only need to bribe the police because they are criminals.

Their possibility of meeting a violent death is quite high. They are also frequently kidnapped, as are their family members. They derive no enjoyment from their supposed wealth, living instead the perfect lower-middle class life-style when they aren't killing or getting killed. Sometime they can't even sleep at home because they have to lock themselves in the clubhouse for protection. They get to ride their motorcycles around, which might be fun, sure, but they could do that in the same exact way if they simply ran their "front" organization, which is an automobile and motorcycle repair shop. I suppose they could do their other hobbies on the cheap too, like getting into fist fights with one another or getting tattoos.


The leader of the gang has the noble ambition of getting it out of serious crime, or at least making its "legitimate" businesses semi-legal escort services and pornography, instead of arms trafficking. It turns out that getting out of crime is just as dangerous, because it upsets the balance of power, so the plan to go straight leads to further violent deaths and dismemberments. Members of his MC are killed, and they have to kill others as well. The conceit is that one last massacre is needed in order for the Sons to go legit. Of course, the violence just gets worse.

The show has you identify with the leader of the gang because he is "nobler" than anyone else in a similar position, and because the other gangs are more brutal than his own. He is modeled after Prince Hamlet, in a pretty obvious way, and like Hamlet leaves carnage in his wake.


Vance Maverick said...

Not sure which direction you're thinking of taking this. On the factual claim, see Levitt and Venkatesh's demonstration that drug dealing pays badly for most.

Or on the arms-race of romance: crime fiction always has to keep plunging the reader in new cold baths of sober reality to maintain the glamor of "wish it were so".

Anonymous said...

Off topic entirely: I have discovered that there is a book edited by Cary Nelson, 60 years of American poetry on the Spanish civil war, from 2002, that I did not know about. If you do not, you should look at it, it is quite interesting and some of the things are good and I did not know them.

Anonymous said...

It contains, for example, this poem that I did not know: http://www.poetrynet.org/month/archive/bensko/lorca.html

Jonathan said...

I'm familiar with the freakonomics analysis. I was thinking more on the lines that money would make no difference. Even the leaders of the gang don't live opulently.

Jonathan said...

And yes, I know that book. I might need to look at it again before I turn my ms. in.